By Corporate English Solutions

11 January 2022 - 10:08

An employee sits by their laptop while attending an online meeting.

Reading time: 8 minutes

As a result of the pandemic the need to work from home has forced a new hybrid working model. We explore what hybrid working really means and how teams can embrace it with strategies that promote collaboration.

 

So, what is hybrid working? 

The global pandemic has forced many of us to adopt a hybrid working model. Hybrid working means that some members of a workforce usually work in the office, while others work remotely.

For such a working model to be effective, communication is key! When people share the same space, communication happens naturally regardless of their respective teams. A conversation that once could have taken place over a few minutes across a desk has become a series of emails or an online meeting.

Online meetings, emails, and other digital communications tools are central. But how do we make them more effective?

Why we need to work towards the new normal

Hybrid working can sometimes mean that communication between different teams breaks down. This can happen within a team where there becomes a sense of 'us and them', between remote and office workers.

For example, remote workers may feel that their office-based colleagues are held in higher regard, while people in the office are jealous of the perceived comforts enjoyed those working remotely.

Far from being comfortable, remote workers can fear that bosses and colleagues might question just how hard they are working. To demonstrate that they are not slacking, they may make a point of being responsive to all communications. This is risky because by being “always on”, workers can let their core work slip, with production suffering and employees getting stressed.

Managers can sometimes exacerbate problems since they are also adjusting to a hybrid way of working which takes them beyond their comfort zone. They might make it apparent that they prefer staff to work in the office. In meetings, they may side-line remote participants in favour of the ones who are physically present. Such behaviour can result in remote workers feeling undervalued and, consequently, less productive.

When we come out of the current pandemic, hybrid working will become part of the new normal, so anyone leading a hybrid team should consider the challenges posed by the hybrid workplace. To maintain effective collaboration and output in hybrid teams, managers should embrace hybrid working themselves, recognise the issues that hybrid working can generate, and plan for them with an effective hybrid working strategy. 

Facilitate efficient collaboration in hybrid teams

Effective collaboration is one area where workers are experiencing difficulties.

Methods which worked in the traditional working environment are not appropriate for the hybrid way of working. In the new world, ‘collaborating’ can often lead to a stream of short meetings and tasks that reduce a worker’s focus on the main job.

L&D teams can help in the development of a hybrid working strategy by offering staff advice such as encouraging the implementation of calendar sharing. This reduces wasted time when arranging meetings. In addition, they can advise workers to block out time on their calendars to let them focus on deep work, or for well-being breaks.

It can also be worthwhile for those managing hybrid teams to introduce rules about responding to emails. Rather than staff feeling that they must reply to all emails quickly, they can be encouraged to have a flexible routine. For example, they could review their email inboxes in the morning only or towards the end of the day. A company-wide system like this reduces interruptions and can boost productivity.

Embrace a digital platform to feel connected

Tech is all-important in the hybrid way of working, and L&D can help promote the idea that the digital platform is the HQ! This is effectively where everyone in a hybrid team is “based”, where everyone should be working from and where everyone can feel connected. 

For this reason, all meetings should be taken online. To some, it might seem odd that the group of staff who work together at the office are expected to participate in meetings digitally but doing so is a good hybrid working strategy as it places all delegates on an equal footing.

If this is hard to implement, at the very least, the person leading the meeting should attend remotely as a means of minimising perceived bias. Virtual whiteboards that can be accessed by all participants should also be favoured over physical whiteboards or flipcharts. 

Health and well-being as motivating factors

Managers can support staff by frequently reminding them of the need to prioritise only the most important tasks and to look after their well-being. L&D teams can help by promoting this and empowering teams to think differently. 

It is also important that staff recognise when the motivation to collaborate comes from within. Staff need to feel that they are more than mere producers, so managers should demonstrate that they value employee health as much as output.

Managers can encourage use of the digital platform by making it available for casual chat, quizzes, team games, unrelated to work. This shows staff the platform is not just about work, but it also becomes a place for building friendships and networking. 

Discover more blogs on from British Council Corporate English Solutions

Find another blog